How Shane Larkin uses the pick-and-roll effectively

Shane Larkin is an effective driver in pick-and-roll situations. (USA Today)

Shane Larkin is an effective driver in pick-and-roll situations. (USA Today)

Yesterday we looked at how Miami–Marquette’s Thursday night opponent in the Sweet 16–uses the second-most pick-and-rolls in the country, doing so at one of the most efficient clips of any team. It’s where the Hurricanes’ offense begins and ends, and at the forefront of that is point guard Shane Larkin.

The ACC Player of the Year averaged 14.5 points per game on 48 percent shooting, including 67 3-point makes at a 41 percent clip. His effective field goal percentage of 56.9 percent ranked in the top-125 of the country, and he scored 20 or more points on eight different occasions.

The son of MLB Hall-of-Famer Barry Larkin, Shane has made the jump in his sophomore year, and like the Miami offense plays most efficient when initiating the pick-and-roll offense. Let’s dive in further:

Only one other player in the country–Arizona State freshman Jahii Carson–dribbled off picks to initiate a shot attempt more. Larkin’s 4.6 assists per game were tied for third in the ACC, but where he excelled the most was looking to score when forwards Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson or Julius Gamble came and set a screen for him. Larkin joined an impressive group among the top-4 players who used these picks/situations the most.

Possessions dribbling off a pick

SL1Note: Percent of the time used is based on pick-and-rolls the player received.

So what does Larkin do when he dribbles off his pick? What’s the end result? Given how much the Hurricanes use him off the ball-screen, he must be doing something right. Let’s look at his three (successful) options available:

1. The first is a Larkin jump shot. In 2012-’13, he is averaging 1.144 points per possession, the 39th best mark in the country (minimum 180 possessions) on all jump shots. Not surprising, Larkin takes advantage of pick-and-roll jump shots when the defending forward gives him space. It’s a true “pick your poison” with the speedy point guard, and sometimes that means giving him space to shoot.

Here we break down North Carolina’s defense, which dared Larkin to shoot. Like all three plays you’ll see below, the high screen is set at the top of the court.

Early in the ACC Championship, Larkin receives a ball screen from forward Julius Gamble. Freshman Marcus Paige goes over the Gamble’s screen but subsequently trails Larkin. Forward James Michael McAdoo, Gamble’s defender, sags off Larkin to avoid being beat off the dribble. But Larkin’s quick release and quick feet allow him to get the shot off for a made 3-pointer.

2. Larkin’s second option is to drive to the basket off his ball screen. Per, the sophomore point guard is shooting 62 percent at the rim (compared to Vander Blue’s 63 percent mark) and his lighting-quick first step allows him the ability to drive by forwards hedging on ball-screen coverage.

We pick this game up at home against Virginia Tech. This time center Reggie Johnson is setting a ball screen for Larkin much higher on the court, giving Larkin more room to maneuver. It’s also worth noting that forward Kenny Kadji is standing at the 3-point line in the left corner (nearest the screen), different than the situation against North Carolina in the first video (where he was in the paint waiting for an entry pass or a seal for Larkin). The open lane allows Larkin to drive, and Kadji’s defender is late to help, allowing an easy basket.

3. Larkin’s third successful option off pick-and-roll action is to pass. It’s clear teams have picked up on his ability both to shoot and drive to the basket, so at times it makes sense to crash down on him and make Miami’s outside shooters beat them. The Hurricanes are shooting 32.4 percent from beyond the arc, good for 95th in the country.

We’re back against North Carolina, this time in a regular season game, and Larkin finds himself in a similar situation. Gamble sets a pick for Larkin, who beats both his man and Gamble’s, leaving him free in the paint. The defense collapses, and at the time Larkin makes his pass to shooting guard and Milwaukee native Trey McKinney Jones, four Tar Heels are in the paint. Larkin even had his choice to his McKinney Jones or Durand Scott in the left corner.

With Arizona State’s Carson out of the picture, no one in the country uses this pick-and-roll action as much as Larkin. He’s able to knock down jumpers, get to the basket and find open shooters. It’s the reason he was named the player of the year in a conference that included Scott Wood, Reggie Bullock, Seth Curry, P.J. Hairson and Erick Green.

How Marquette chooses to defend Larkin (and his ball-screener) will make all the difference for Miami’s top-15 efficient offense. Tomorrow we’ll look at how the Golden Eagles may guard Larkin and the screeners.

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Categories: Analysis, Home, Synergy


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